Book Talks

Book Talks 2020-2021

BookTalks are designed to give UM faculty with a humanities focus an opportunity to share their recently published books with the community.  Faculty generally present on their research and take questions from the audience.   

Under normal circumstances, Book Talks take place at Books & Books: 265 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fall semester Book Talks will take place online.  The link to join each Book Talk webinar will be posted below as they become available.  


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  • September: Jennifer Ferriss-Hill


    Wednesday, September 16, 2020 at 8pm

    Jennifer Ferriss-Hill

    Associate Professor, Classics
    University of Miami

    Horace's Ars Poetica: Family, Friendship, and the Art of Living

    For two millennia, the "Ars Poetica" (Art of Poetry), the 476-line literary treatise in verse with which Horace closed his career, has served as a paradigmatic manual for writers. Rarely has it been considered as a poem in its own right, or else it has been disparaged as a great poet's baffling outlier. Here, Jennifer Ferriss-Hill for the first time fully reintegrates the "Ars Poetica" into Horace's oeuvre, reading the poem as a coherent, complete, and exceptional literary artifact intimately linked with the larger themes pervading his work.

    Arguing that the poem can be interpreted as a manual on how to live masquerading as a handbook on poetry, Ferriss-Hill traces its key themes to show that they extend beyond poetry to encompass friendship, laughter, intergenerational relationships, and human endeavor. If the poem is read for how it expresses itself, moreover, it emerges as an exemplum of art in which judicious repetitions of words and ideas join disparate parts into a seamless whole that nevertheless lends itself to being remade upon every reading.

    Establishing the "Ars Poetica" as a logical evolution of Horace's work, this book promises to inspire a long overdue reconsideration of a hugely influential yet misunderstood poem.

    Jennifer Ferriss-Hill holds an A.B. from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is associate professor of classics and senior associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami. She works on Ancient Greek and Latin poetry, in particular Augustan poetry, Roman Satire, and Greek Old Comedy, and she has also published on Catullus and Varro. Her first book, Roman Satire and the Old Comic Tradition, was published with Cambridge University Press (2015) and received the 2016 First Book Award from the Classical Association of the Middle-West and South.


  • October: Berit Brogaard and Christina Lane

    Wednesday, October 7, 2020 at 8:00 PM

    Brit Brogaard

    Professor, Philosophy
    University of Miami 

    Hatred: Understanding Our Most Dangerous Emotion

    Hatred is often considered the opposite of love, but in many ways is much more complicated. It also may be considered one of the dominant emotions of our time, as individuals, groups, and even nations express or enact hatred to varying degrees. What is hatred? Where does it come from and what does it reveal about the hater? And is hatred always a bad thing?

    Brogaard makes a deep dive into the moral psychology of one of our most complex and vivid emotions. She explores how hatred arises between people and among groups. She also shows how hate, like anger, can sometimes be appropriate and fitting. Other questions she addresses are, how does hate differ from anger, disgust, fear, and other related emotions? Is fear an essential part of hatred? How does hatred affect what happens inside the brain? How did hate evolve in human history? Is hatred ever morally justified? Can you hate and love at the same time? Can one hate oneself? How do implicit biases trigger hatred of groups?

    Berit “Brit” Brogaard is Professor of Philosophy at University of Miami. Her areas of research include philosophy of mind, philosophy of language and cognitive science. She is the author of the books Transient Truths (Oxford University Press, 2012), On Romantic Love (Oxford University Press, 2015), The Superhuman Mind (Penguin, 2015), and Seeing & Saying (Oxford University Press, 2018).

    Watch the recording here.

     View this helpful handout to follow along with the lecture. 

    Wednesday, October 28, 2020 at 8:00 PM

    Christina Lane

    Professor, Cinema and Interactive Media
    University of Miami 

    Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock 

    In 1933, Joan Harrison was a twenty-six-year-old former salesgirl with a dream of escaping both her stodgy London suburb and the dreadful prospect of settling down with one of the local boys. A few short years later, she was Alfred Hitchcock's confidante and one of the Oscar-nominated screenwriters of his first American film, Rebecca. Harrison had quickly grown from being the worst secretary Hitchcock ever had to one of his closest collaborators, critically shaping his brand as the "Master of Suspense." Forging her own public persona as the female Hitchcock, Harrison went on to produce numerous Hollywood features before becoming a television pioneer as the producer of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. A respected powerhouse, she acquired a singular reputation for running amazingly smooth productions— and defying anyone who posed an obstacle. She built most of her films and series from the ground up. She waged rough-and-tumble battles against executives and censors, and even helped to break the Hollywood blacklist. She teamed up with many of the most respected, well-known directors, writers, and actors of the twentieth century. And she did it all on her own terms. Author Christina Lane shows how this stylish, stunning woman became Hollywood's most powerful female writer-producer—one whom history has since overlooked.

    Christina Lane is the author of Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock (Chicago Review Press, 2020). She has written extensively on film history, aesthetics, and women's media production, including Feminist Hollywood: From Born in Flames to Point Break (Wayne State UP, 2000) and Magnolia (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), the first book-length treatment of the Paul Thomas Anderson film. Dr. Lane is associate professor of film studies and chair of the cinematic arts department at the University of Miami. She makes frequent speaking appearances and has provided commentary to such media outlets as Air Mail, NPR, and the Daily Mail. 



  • November: Melvin Butler

    Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 8:00 PM

    Melvin Butler

    Professor, Musicology 
    University of Miami 

    Island Gospel: Pentecostal Music and Identity in Jamaica and the United States

    Pentecostals throughout Jamaica and the Jamaican diaspora use music to declare what they believe and where they stand in relation to religious and cultural outsiders. Yet the inclusion of secular music forms like ska, reggae, and dancehall complicates music's place in social and ritual practice, challenging Jamaican Pentecostals to reconcile their religious and cultural identities.

    Melvin L. Butler journeys into this crossing of boundaries and its impact on Jamaican congregations and the music they make. Using the concept of flow, Butler's ethnography evokes both the experience of Spirit-influenced performance and the transmigrations that fuel the controversial sharing of musical and ritual resources between Jamaica and the United States. Highlighting constructions of religious and cultural identity, Butler illuminates music's vital place in how the devout regulate spiritual and cultural flow while striving to maintain both the sanctity and fluidity of their evolving tradition.

    Melvin L. Butler is an Associate Professor in the Department of Musicology at the Frost School of Music. He specializes in music and religion in Haitian, Jamaican, and African American communities. Dr. Butler’s research explores the cultural politics of musical performance, national identity, and extraordinary experience. He also examines the discourses of cultural authenticity and spiritual power that inflect congregational practice. At the heart of his scholarly work lies a critical reconsideration of how spiritually charged music-making is embedded in processes of boundary crossing, identity formation, and social positioning throughout the African diaspora. An acclaimed saxophonist, Dr. Butler has performed with Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band for over two decades. He also served as Secretary of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (U.S. Branch) from 2008 to 2010 and was also elected to the Board of Directors of the Haitian Studies Association from 2010 to 2013. Dr. Butler earned his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from New York University, where he also received an M.A. in jazz studies. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in performance from Berklee College of Music.


  • December: Mark Rowlands

    Wednesday, December 9, 2020 at 8:00 PM

    Mark Rowlands

    Professor and Acting Chair, Philosophy
    University of Miami 

    Can Animals Be Persons?

    Can animals be persons? To this question, scientific and philosophical consensus has taken the form of a resounding, 'No!' In this book, Mark Rowlands disagrees. Not only can animals be persons, many of them probably are. Taking, as his starting point, John Locke's classic definition of a person, as "a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself the same thinking thing, in different times and places," Rowlands argues that many animals can satisfy all of these conditions. A person is an individual in which four features coalesce: consciousness, rationality, self-awareness and other-awareness, and many animals are such individuals.

    As well as being fascinating in their own right, animals, as Claude Levi-Strauss once put it, are "good to think." In this seamless interweaving of the empirical study of animal minds with philosophy and its history, this book makes a powerful case for the idea that reflection on animals allows us to better understand each of these four pillars of personhood, and so illuminates what it means for any individual--animal or human--to be conscious, rational, self- and other-aware.

    Mark Rowlands (D.Phil., Oxford University) is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Miami. He is the author of seventeen books, translated into more than twenty languages, and over a hundred journal articles, book chapters and reviews. His work in the philosophy of mind, and in particular theories of embodied, extended and enacted cognition comprises several books, including The Body in Mind (Cambridge, 1999), The Nature of Consciousness (Cambridge, 1999), Externalism (Acumen, 2003), Body Language (MIT, 2006) and The New Science of the Mind (MIT 2010). His work in ethics and moral psychology includes Animal Rights (Macmillan 1998), The Environmental Crisis (Macmillan, 2000), Animals Like Us (Verso, 2002), and Can Animals be Moral? (Oxford, 2012). He has also written several popular books, including The Philosopher at the End of the Universe (Random House, 2003), Everything I Know I Learned From TV (Random House, 2005), and Running with the Pack (Granta, 2013). His memoir, The Philosopher and the Wolf (Granta, 2008) became an international bestseller.


  • January: Claire Oueslati-Porter

    Wednesday, January 20, 2021 at 8:00 PM

    Claire Oueslati-Porter

    Senior Lecturer of Anthropology and Interim Director, Gender and Sexuality Studies 
    University of Miami 

    Gender, Textile Work, and Tunisian Women’s Liberation: Deviating Patterns 

    In this book, author Claire Oueslati-Porter describes her field research  in Binzart, Tunisia's sprawling factory zone and in the surrounding city. She blends conventional ethnography with auto-ethnography, leading readers inside a textile factory, among the women and men workers who navigate intensely gendered labor. While there is pressure to adhere to gendered codes of behavior in the factory, some women engage in subversive gender performances. Oueslati-Porter elucidates a phenomenon that is oft-neglected in studies of women in the Middle East and North Africa: gender-queerness. Further, Oueslati-Porter explores her own perceptions of being a researcher while also being a daughter-in-law in a Tunisian family, and a mother to a toddler-aged son while conducting field work. This ethnography centralizes women's waged and unwaged labor in the understanding of women’s rights.  

    Claire Oueslati-Porter is an anthropologist (Ph.D. at University of South Florida, 2012). Oueslati-Porter is a core lecturer in the Gender & Sexuality Studies program at University of Miami, where she teaches courses including Introduction to Gender & Sexuality Studies, Gender in the Middle East and North Africa, and Gender and Forced Migration.


  • February: Heather Diack

    Wednesday, February 10, 2021 at 8:00 PM

    Heather Diack

    Associate Professor, Art History 
    University of Miami 

    Documents of Doubt: The Photographic Conditions of Conceptual Art

    Why do we continue to look to photographs for evidence despite our awareness of photography’s potential for duplicity? Documents of Doubt critically reassesses the truth claims surrounding photographs by looking at how conceptual artists creatively undermined them. Studying the unique relationship between photography and conceptual art practices in the United States during the social and political instability of the late 1960s, Heather Diack offers vital new perspectives on our “post-truth” world and the importance of suspending easy conclusions in contemporary art. 

    Considering the work of four leading conceptual artists of the 1960s and ’70s, Diack looks at photographs as documents of doubt, pushing the form beyond commonly assumed limits. Through in-depth and thorough reevaluations of early work by noted artists Mel Bochner, Bruce Nauman, Douglas Huebler, and John Baldessari, Diack advances the powerful thesis that photography provided a means of moving away from the object and toward performative effects, playing a crucial role in the development of conceptual art as a medium of doubt and contingency. Discussing how unexpected and contradictory meanings can exist in the guise of ordinary pictures, Documents of Doubt offers evocative and original ideas on truth’s connection to photography in the United States during the late 1960s and how conceptual art from that period anticipated our current era of “alternative facts” in contemporary politics and culture.

    Heather A. Diack is Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History and the History of Photography at the University of Miami, where she specializes in conceptual art, critical theory, and visual culture. She is the author of Documents of Doubt: The Photographic Conditions of Conceptual Art (University of Minnesota Press, 2020), which won an Andrew Wyeth Foundation for American art publishing grant. She is also co-author with Erina Duganne and Terri Weissman of Global Photography: A Critical History (Routledge, 2020) and co-editor of photographies (Fall 2017 no. 10.3) Not Just Pictures: Reassessing Critical Models for 1980s Photography. Her writing has appeared in numerous journals including, Visual Studies, History of Photography, Public, RACAR, and Artforum, as well as in several edited volumes, such as Photography Performing Humor (Leuven University Press, 2019), L'art de Douglas Huebler (Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2018), Photography and Doubt (Routledge, 2017), and The Public Life of Photographs (MIT Press and Ryerson Image Center, 2016).

    Diack holds degrees from the University of Toronto and McGill University, and was a Helena Rubenstein Fellow in Critical Studies at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Diack’s research has been supported by numerous awards and fellowships, including the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, DAAD/Goethe Institute, Berlin, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, the National Endowment for the Humanities, USA, the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ, and the Henry Moore Institute for the Study of Sculpture, UK. In 2016 Diack was the Terra Foundation for American Art Visiting Professor at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at the Freie Universität in Berlin.


  • March: Michael Slote and David Kling

    Wednesday, March 3, 2021 at 8:00 PM

    Michael Slote

    Professor, Philosophy  
    University of Miami 

    Between Psychology and Philosophy: East-West Themes and Beyond

    This open access book discusses a variety of important but unprecedented ways in which psychology can be useful to philosophy. The early chapters illustrate this theme via comparisons between Chinese and Western philosophy. It is argued that the Chinese notion of a heart-mind is superior to the Western concept of mind, but then, more even-handedly, the relative strengths and weaknesses of Chinese and Western thought overall are critically examined. In later chapters, the philosophical uses of psychology are treated more specifically in relation to major issues in Western philosophy.  Michael Slote shows that empathy and emotion play a role in speech acts (like assertion and thanking) that speech act theory has totally ignored. Similarly, he treats the age-old question of whether justice pays using psychological material that has not previously been recognized. Finally, the implications of psychological egoism are discussed in terms of some new psychological and, indeed, human distinctions. Human life is pervaded by instincts and aspirations that are neither egoistic nor altruistic, and recognizing that fact can help put egoism in its place. It is less of a challenge to morality than we have realized.

    Michael Slote (Ph.D., Harvard University), UST Professor of Ethics in the University of Miami's Philosophy Department. He has taught at Columbia University, Trinity College, Dublin, and the University of Maryland, where he was department chair for many years. He has written many articles in philosophy of mind, ethics, and political philosophy. His books include: Goods and Virtues (Oxford, 1983);Commonsense Morality and Consequentialism (Routledge, 1985);Beyond Optimizing (Harvard, 1989); From Morality to Virtue (Oxford, 1992); and Morals from Motives (Oxford, 2001). His book, The Ethics of Care and Empathy (Routledge, 2007), makes use of the recent psychology literature on empathy to develop a version of care ethics that applies to both personal and political morality. His latest work includes Moral Sentimentalism (Oxford, 2010). His recent work on the philosophy of education compliments his well-known work on ethical theory, and focuses on an empathy-based approach to moral education.


    Wednesday, March 24, 2021 at 8:00 PM

    David Kling

    Professor and Chair, Religious Studies 
    University of Miami 

    A History of Christian Conversion

    Conversion has played a central role in the history of Christianity. In this first in-depth and wide-ranging narrative history, David Kling examines the dynamic of turning to the Christian faith by individuals, families, and people groups. Global in reach, the narrative progresses from early Christian beginnings in the Roman world to Christianity's expansion into Europe, the Americas, China, India, and Africa. Conversion is often associated with a particular strand of modern Christianity (evangelical) and a particular type of experience (sudden, overwhelming). However, when examined over two millennia, it emerges as a phenomenon far more complex than any one-dimensional profile would suggest. No single, unitary paradigm defines conversion and no easily explicable process accounts for why people convert to Christianity. Rather, a multiplicity of factors-historical, personal, social, geographical, theological, psychological, and cultural-shape the converting process.

    A History of Christian Conversion not only narrates the conversions of select individuals and peoples, it also engages current theories and models to explain conversion, and examines recurring themes in the conversion process: divine presence, gender and the body, agency and motivation, testimony and memory, group- and self-identity, "authentic" and "nominal" conversion, and modes of communication. Accessible to scholars, students, and those with a general interest in conversion, Kling's book is the most satisfying and comprehensive account of conversion in Christian history to date; this major work will become a standard must-read in conversion studies.

    David Kling has been at the University of Miami since 1986, serving initially in an administrative capacity before joining the Department of Religious Studies in 1993, where he currently serves as Department Chair. He is a specialist in American religious history and the history of Christianity. Kling is the author of A Field of Divine Wonders: The New Divinity and Village Revivals in Northwestern Connecticut, 1792-1822; The Bible in History: How the Texts Have Shaped the Times; co-editor (with Douglas A. Sweeney) of Jonathan Edwards at Home and Abroad: Historical Memories, Cultural Movements, Global Horizons; and an area editor (American Christianity) for the Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception.


  • April: Logan Connors

    Wednesday, April 14, 2021 at 8:00 PM

    Logan Connors

    Associate Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures
    University of Miami 

    The Emergence of a Theatrical Science of Man in France, 1660-1740

    The emergence of a theatrical science of man in France, 1660-1740 highlights a radical departure from discussions of dramatic literature and its undergirding rules to a new, relational discourse on the emotional power of theater. Through a diverse cast of religious theaterphobes, government officials, playwrights, art theorists and proto-philosophes, Connors shows the concerted effort in early Enlightenment France to use texts about theater to establish broader theories on emotion, on the enduring psychological and social ramifications of affective moments, and more generally, on human interaction, motivation, and social behavior. This fundamentally anthropological assessment of theater emerged in the works of anti-theatrical religious writers, who argued that emotional response was theater's raison d'être and that it was an efficient venue to learn more about the depravity of human nature. A new generation of pro-theatrical writers shared the anti-theatricalists' intense focus on the emotions of theater, but unlike religious theaterphobes, they did not view emotion as a conduit of sin or as a dangerous, uncontrollable process; but rather, as cognitive-affective moments of feeling and learning.

    Connors' study explores this reassessment of the theatrical experience which empowered writers to use plays, critiques, and other cultural materials about the stage to establish a theatrical science of man-an early Enlightenment project with aims to study and 'improve' the emotional, social, and political 'health' of eighteenth-century France.